Here’s what a foggifier sounds like:  you start an important coaching session with Mark about a serious issue at work.  In response to your observations, Mark says, “Well, yes, that’s part of it.  But I think we have too much pressure around here.”   And then he says “Did Susan start this?  I don’t think she likes me.”  And then “I think Jack is also part of the problem... And last week my car broke down too…And I haven’t been able to sleep well since…I think maybe I need you to explain the whole project to me again…And I wasn’t really hired for this work, was I?”  Soon Mark has presented you with more issues than New York City has bedbugs!

At this critical point, you’re thinking “Where do I begin with this?” It’s like sorting out a big ball of yarn.  In our manager/coach role we often grasp the easiest, most available loose end.  It’s often the one we think might be easiest to solve, the one for which we have a ready answer. Unfortunately it also is often the least critical to getting performance back on track.  You’ve fallen into the foggifier trap!

Foggifier” probably isn’t in your daily vocabulary, but managers who use our Coaching for Great Work approach know all about these dead ends to  effective coaching interaction:

•    Temptation of the Presenting Challenge
•    Overdeveloped Sense of Responsibility
•    Avoiding the Real Issue
•    Proliferation of Challenges
•    Generalizations and Abstractions
•    Seduced by the Story.

Sound familiar?  Here’s how we get it back on track:  ask some Get Clear Questions.  Ask, don’t tell.  When we tell someone what to do, give them advice, or point out what we think is critical, nothing much changes in the electrical activity in the brain.  So no connection, no commitment, no buy-in to change, so no action.

If we ask Get Clear Questions (step 1 in Coaching for Great Work) we get connection, focus,  a declaration of purpose.  Here’s some of my favorite Get Clear Questions:
•    What’s most important to you?
•    What’s the real challenge here for you?
•    Give me the bottom line – what’s the challenge here?
•    If you had to choose one challenge to work on now, what would it be?

Give these questions a try the next time the fog is rolling in during your coaching moments – and pause to let them sort and answer!  If you like this tip, you’ll love the full Coaching for Great Work approach!  Check out the only U.S. open workshop we have this year – October 7th in Washington, D.C.   Just press the button on the right for more info.  I’m so excited about you experiencing it, I’m happy to offer you the special “Friend of Rita” discounted rate of $149.  Just use the coupon code FOR when you pay.  Also enter to win the FOUR COMPLIMENTARY registrations as part of my Big Birthday Giveaway below.  See you in October!

Saturday, 18 September 2010 19:56

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! THE GIFTS ARE FOR YOU!

Continuing with a tradition of mine, I’m celebrating my birthday by giving gifts to my friends – and that includes you!  This year has been phenomenal for me, so here’s what I’m offering to you in celebration:

FIRST GIFT:  Four (4!) FREE SEATS in the Coaching for Great Work day-long session in Washington, D.C. on October 7.  Yes, FREE (a $399 value) to the first four readers who email their interest to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  It’s your chance to experience the program that’s reinventing how coaching can be successfully embedded in organizations.  I want YOU to see how this approach will change how you coach your employees forever.  You’ll get the full one-day program delivered by the incomparable Michael Bungay Stanier, lots of practice on how to coach in 10 minutes or less, the coaching materials and a signed copy of Michael’s book Do More Great Work.  Plus plenty of interaction with peers from other companies and a great lunch – all in the heart of Washington, D.C. at the beautiful American Institute of Architects!  I’ve added extra seats to the workshop just for this special offer, but they will go fast, so email me NOW!  If you need more info, hit the button on my web site or visit http://CoachingforGreatWork.com .  If you haven’t already registered, then make a grab for a free seat!

SECOND GIFT:  Nine FREE COACHING SESSIONS with me. Be one of the first readers to email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and receive a complimentary 45-minute session via the phone.  If you’ve always wondered what a coach could do for you, or if you have a pressing issue to discuss, let’s talk!  To find out more about my approach to coaching, read “An Interview with Rita” under the About Us tab on our web site.  Money Magazine recently said, "A coach may be the guardian angel you need to rev up your career," so let’s get started!

IF YOU WANT TO JOIN MY CELEBRATION, EMAIL FOR THESE GIFTS NOW!  If you know of others who are interested, feel free to forward this newsletter and offer to them.  BUT HURRY – MY READERS ARE SMART – AND QUICK!  Express your interest now; I’ll reply with the details.  Good luck!

Tina Turner asks “What’s love got to do with it?” in her hallmark song. I’ve had coaching clients who repeatedly argue the connection between optimism and increasing their success in the same plaintive tones. Using my best Emotional Intelligence training, I explain that optimists are people who look at the brighter side of life, and maintain a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity. “Oh that”, they say, “doesn’t matter, as long as I get the work done.” Really?

Wouldn’t you rather work with an optimist? Wouldn’t you rather surround yourself with a team of optimists? When the chips are down, who would you more likely turn to?

Optimism reflects the degree of hopefulness that one incorporates in his or her life. Optimism gives people the power to tackle challenges head on, as their mindset allows them to focus more on possibilities rather than consequences. Some of us are optimistic by nature, but the good news is that we can learn to be more optimistic.

Optimism DOES matter. Our workplaces are not the most optimistic environments these days.  According to some fascinating research from DDI (Development Dimensions International), the average American spends 15 hours a month criticizing or complaining about his/her boss.  In the face of these tough economic times, nearly everyone feels unsettled, overworked, under-appreciated, and perhaps a bit insecure.

There’s plenty of adversity to go around. That reality makes optimism a critical skill to have, as it often separates “star performers” from others in our workplace. Optimism is also essential when working in groups or with cross-functional teams. Having an optimistic outlook is often contagious and it will have a positive impact on coworkers’ performance. By showing a passion and optimism for your work, group members will see your resilience toward challenges.

Here’s a few strategies to ramp up your optimism:

  1. It’s about choice. Choose to view setbacks as temporary, not permanent. Do not repeat or ruminate on negative thoughts.
  2. Avoid dwelling on negative past experiences. If you face a difficult situation, determine the cause, take corrective action and move forward. Too much obsessing about the past can paralyze you –just when acting is most needed.
  3. Focus on positive outcomes for future behavior.
  4. Get that optimistic mood in play! Think about past successes, then “Fake it ‘til you make it!”


Please contact me for more Optimism strategies or info about Emotional Intelligence. I’d love to talk to you about the Bar-On EQi and EQ360 assessments. For a deeper read on this topic, I recommend Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, by Martin P. Seligman. Ph.D.

"Happiness is easy, but learning not to be unhappy, can be difficult." ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

Fact:  The brain cannot multitask.  We’ve spent two decades singing the praises of a brain function that is a myth, can’t be done, is destructive.  We’ve prided ourselves on our ability to do it, and coached others to embrace it in order to get more done and to get ahead.

The research is in and it’s conclusive: The brain just doesn’t work that way.  It focuses on concepts sequentially, one at a time, not in multiples.  The brain has a strong ability to pay attention, but not to more than one thing at a time.

Sure, we can monitor one thing and (partially) focus on another.  But something is likely to suffer from this unequal distribution of our attention.  The brain simply can’t process attention-rich inputs simultaneously.

Here’s what the neuroscientists tell us happens when we try to jump from one thing to another:  the brain gets an alert to shift attention, it searches for a rule about how to do the new request, then activates that rule.  Our brain’s focus is now on the new item –until another item shows up.  Then it disengages from the previous item, and repeats the pattern of shift-find-a -rule- activate again.

That process takes time and energy. That process has to happen, in that sequence, each time we shift from one task to another.  Result:  we lose track of where we were, backtrack, often need to start over on the task.

Multitasking, as we know it, is a constant chain of interruptions to our brain’s processing.  Studies show that a person, once interrupted, will take 50 percent longer to complete a task.  Studies also tell us how destructive our attempts to multitask our brains can be.  The headlines, the laws, and yes, Oprah’s declaration of our cars as “Cell Free Zones” all speak to the fallacy of multitasking when it comes to cell phone usage while driving.

Didn’t we suspect that it wasn’t working all that well for us?  Switching back and forth, working in a constant fog, sitting here… with…our minds over there.

Technology is our friend, but not when we use it to further distract ourselves.  Remember, each furtive re-check of our email requires another switching sequence in our brains.

Tips for You:

  • Minimize (better yet, close down) the email browser and turn off the audio that announces arriving messages.
  • Set a timer for 50 minute intervals.  Use this time to focus on one single task.
  • Establish “no interruptions unless the building is burning” times.  Be an example to your staff and co-workers.
  • Close your door (if you have one) and/or post a sign: PROJECT WORK;  Will be available at ______.

As our kids return to school, we admonish them to “stay focused”.  And so should we.

If you want to know more, I highly recommend Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, by John Medina. NY Times bestseller, 2008.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010 22:45

What the new EZine-Newsletter Means to Me

With the release of this first issue of News from LEAP Leadership Advantage – at last --  I’m officially shaking off the doldrums of the long, hot summer.  It’s time to get back to work, to do new things, to launch out in different directions!

I’ve had an eventful summer.  Have you?  Making new connections with both new and cherished clients, networking with a host of new colleagues, working on stimulating programs and coaching great folks to greater heights.  It’s all good, very good indeed.

The continued interest in learning and development coming from you and your organizations, despite the economy’s languor, keeps me busy and optimistic.  (More about optimism in the next issue.)  I believe that it is time to INVEST -- invest in our own futures, in our employees, in our success and in the success of our organizations.  I hope that you agree with me on the value of taking a LEAP of faith in times like these.

I did.  Over the last few months I have followed my instincts into some new areas.  With a “LEAP, and the net will appear” mentality, how could I not?  I have invested in new skills that will further engage my clients in their growth, development and success.  I’m intrigued by neuroleadership,  so I’m following the work of David Rock and others.  I’ll never lose my fascination with how people interact within the systems we call organizations, so I engaged in more training with Barry Oshry.  My research continues on generational differences.  You’ll be hearing more about all of these topics in future issues, and I’ll be learning until the day I die.  Isn’t there so very much new and engaging out there for us?

If you haven’t visited the rest of our new LEAP Leadership Advantage web site lately, take a spin over there soon.  It’s all new and worth a view.  I am thankful to the brilliant Keven Menager of Rocketbuilt Web Development for its fresh look, the new logo and this ezine design.  I highly recommend Keven in every regard!

See you all next issue!

Until then, LEAP to your own greatness!

Rita Hummel Crowe

Summer is at an end, and we’re all thinking about school and learning again!  Here’s a great opportunity to expand your own learning in a practical and useful way.

Are you interested in “Coaching in ten minutes or less”?

The Coaching for Great Work workshop is coming to Washington, D.C. on Thursday, October 7.  Michael Bungay Stanier (of Box of Crayons fame, author of Do More Great Work and Get Unstuck & Get Going) will join me in presenting the full one-day program.   If you know this is for you, and have just been waiting for an opportunity to try it on for size for yourself and your organization, please go directly to  http://LEAPLeadershipAdvantage.com/register-for-c4gw for details and registration.

If you’re interested in a different approach to coaching, and want to know more, read on...

This session will be useful for anyone who wants to get better results from their staff through coaching.  When you leave, you’ll have coached and been coached using the Coaching for Great Work approach.

More and more managers are being asked to increase productivity in leaner and leaner organizations.  The frequent pushback from time-strapped managers includes some (or all) of the following:

  1. “I don’t know why I’m doing it.” (In other words, it’s not relevant to my business goals.)
  2. “I don’t know how to do it.” (In other words, I don’t know how to translate the skills I’ve been taught back to “real life.”)
  3. “I don’t know if I want to be a coach.” (In other words, I’m just a regular person – and “Coaching” can come with expectations and baggage.)  And the biggest reason of all…
  4. “I don’t have time to coach.” (In other words, I’m already working way too hard. Where and how exactly do I add coaching to that?)

This is NOT a sales and marketing program, but skills training with plenty of interaction and practice.  The Coaching for Great Work system is built on three “coaching moments” and the simple, flexible processes (rather than a complicated set of coaching steps) are ones that managers can use to bring their staff to new heights of performance.

If you and your organization need the results that come from effective coaching, this is the workshop for you!   We’re going to share with participants:

  • Why Great Work matters – for you, your team and your organization
  • Two reasons why external coaches can be poor role models for executives and managers
  • How to make coaching not just important – but urgent too
  • How to find time to coach
  • The three “coaching moments,” and what to do when you spot them
  • The two words that can help make a challenge come alive
  • The secret to doubling the likelihood you’ll do what you want to do.

You’ll also have the pleasure of working with peers from diverse organizations, a great lunch and you’ll leave with a full set of Coaching for Great Work materials, including Michael’s latest book Do More Great Work.  We’re holding the workshop in the sun-drenched gallery of the American Institute of Architects, across the street from the Corcoran Gallery of Art and scant blocks from the White House and Mall.

Space is limited, so early registration is advised.  The direct link for this event is http://LEAPLeadershipAdvantage.com/register-for-c4gw.   If you register before September 15, you’ll receive a free copy of the book Today Is Your Day: 51 Top Coaches Share Their Secrets to Life and Professional Success, to which I contributed a chapter about, guess what?  Coaching.

Hope to see you in D.C. in October!

If you’re not familiar with Coaching for Great Work, there’s even more info on my website under Services.   Please contact me if you have questions.  Again, you can find registration and information pages for the workshop at http://LEAPLeadershipAdvantage.com.

Some Applications and Endorsements of Coaching for Great Work:

Nestle Canada

  • A two-day program entitled “Coaching the Nestle Way” was tailored to address key issues of engagement and to help increase strategic focus.
  • Rolled out through Nestle’s entire sales force and all other managers with Nestle Canada over three years.  Now established as the most popular training program offered.

This course is at the cutting edge of coaching methodology…simplified the complex aspects of coaching to provide tools that managers can use to stimulate development instantaneously.”  ~ Mark Peters, Head of Training, Nestle Canada

Gartner

  • Gartner is a Fortune 500 company, providing consulting and research in the high-tech sector
  • Program delivered globally – US, UK, Europe and Asia Pacific to 200 senior consultants.  Participants all former CIOs, experienced, busy and skeptical about training.
  • Tailored to address a specific business need: to increase consultant’s retention of clients by using coaching skills to build more powerful, more strategic relationships.
  • Significant ROI reported by client

I was concerned that we could not deliver coaching skills training to our group effectively.  We have a truly global group and a very senior group… They are analytical and critical by nature and training.  And finally, they had been subjected to less than optimal professional development opportunities in the past, to say the least…not only turned their skepticism into enthusiasm but I heard back from participants almost immediately that they were using what they learned and , most importantly , that it was working for them and making a difference.”  ~ Michael J. Leckie, VP HR, Gartner, Inc.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 16:58

Is Overcommitting Your Fatal Flaw?

ScreamerAlways have far more to-dos than will ever fit in your day, week, and month? It’s a perennial state of being for me. I like to think it’s because of my broad interests, my myriad of friends, my thriving business. But when I dig deeper I find that I’ve always been this way, regardless of my circumstances – sometimes worse, sometimes better – but always, always stretched thin with tasks and responsibilities. If you find yourself in the same boat, maybe the same cause is in play for you: overcommitting. We overcommit usually because we want to please everyone or we want to avoid the conflict that comes with saying no. That’s me, coupled with a genuine interest in being of service to as many people as I can. What I’m reminding myself about every day is that it’s about quality, not quantity. It’s about doing Great Work, not Good Work (Michael Bungay Stanier’s fantastic book Do More Great Work spells it out for us).

I am learning to practice what I preach, along with Michael, in our Coaching for Great Work programs: Good work is good, but Great work is, well, really, really GREAT. It’s the work that sometimes doesn’t even feel like work, it feeds your soul, it makes a big difference, it’s what spurs you out of bed with exhilaration to get started. And more.

In order to have time for more and more Great Work, I just have to turn down some amount of Good Work. We talk about the skill of “saying ‘yes’ more slowly”. This works well for people like me, who have a wide streak of “I always want to please” running through me. I may not be able to say “no” outright, but I can suggest someone else who can probably help. I can set expectations of how long they’ll need to wait for my involvement. I can negotiate a tradeoff of another commitment for this new request.

And, yes, I’m working up to saying “no” – nicely, of course – to requests and work that just doesn’t make the Great Work cut anymore for me. How about you? What leads to your overcommitment these days? What do you do to lessen the stress? Your comments are welcomed!

Thursday, 18 March 2010 16:55

Recipe for Disaster, With Revisions

So you wonder how some small businesses are weathering this economic debacle? Poorly, especially in regard to their human capital. Remember when the catch-phrase was “Our employees are our most valuable asset”? Many of the best small businesses embraced that ideal, and walked the talk. In the good old days (the 80s and 90s) it was easy. A true measure of a company is what it does when the going gets rough. The lesser companies have dropped their commitment to employees curb-side now that these painfully tough years are upon them. I encourage you to read the following as a cautionary tale, as a recipe for what not to do in these tough economic times.

I have been observing closely a small family-run business. This firm is not a client, and in my professional judgment, would rue any coaching from outsiders. Why am I so certain about that? As times have gotten tougher on its bottom line, anyone not related by blood –even long-term and faithful employees – have become villains. I watch from the sidelines as they both randomly and systematically employ the following “management” techniques:

1. DRY UP – standard and usual communication to employees, including any managers not in the family. Withhold important info that helps others serve the company’s clients because of a lack of trust in the staff.
2. DEMONIZE – good employees for the smallest misdeeds. Assume that no one is working, everyone is taking advantage. Overreact to any suggestions or input. Paranoia becomes the norm. There isn’t enough CYA in the world to keep individuals safe in this environment.
3. DEFLECT – any suggestions and assume any feedback is criticism. Shoot the messenger and publicly invite others in the company to the execution. Then wonder why the requests for “more effort, more commitment, more engagement” go unanswered.
4. DEMORALIZE – the workforce at all levels by painting a gloom and doom picture – every day, about every thing. Ask for greater sacrifice from all, then continue to arrive late, leave early. Refuse even small raises, cut salaries for management, while continuing to spend frivolously and visibly in the corporate offices.
5. DENY – ownership, culpability or involvement in anything negative that occurs in the company. Scape goat the responsibility to a lower level of management, because you can. Steal credit from them for anything that does go well.

I paint a grim picture. Sad to say, it’s all true. Not a fabrication and not an exaggeration. I marvel at this approach, by relatively intelligent people, as it is almost perfectly the antithesis of what defines good leadership and management. How great is their fear, their negativity, their hopelessness that they stoop to these tactics?

Our responses to adversity are the true test of our character. If I could coach this management team, where would I start? I would challenge them to:

1. LEAD instead of micro-managing
2. SHARE the good times and bad
3. COMMUICATE the information that will bring other employees to the table
4. TRUST the goodwill and intentions of their workforce
5. INNOVATE and try something different
6. REWARD people in creative ways for their efforts, their ideas and their continued energy.

In short, tough times like these call for LEADERS who will not shrink, but who will GO BIG – first and foremost for their people. With a dedicated, committed workforce – one that is treated fairly and with respect – the leadership can enter the work world fray with a great army on its side.

My family, with our family business being a farm, believes that you reap what you sow. A fancier term for this is self-fulfilling prophecy. Treating your employees like bums… makes bums. How long will this company last using these tactics? I’ll keep you posted. Do I hold much hope for the company’s sustainability? I’m hoping the last one out remembers to turn off the lights.

For more info about this topic, register for your free report: LEADING NOW: How to Stand Out as a Leader in these Unusual Times. Comments welcomed always!

Friday, 12 February 2010 16:51

Snow and the Generations

Having been blasted by endless snow storms (like most of the East Coast) for days on end, I’ve been busy watching out the window, checking out the action in the neighborhood. Here’s what caught my attention: there are various approaches to the business of snow removal. As a keen observer of human nature (that’s what we coaches do) I have seen some clearly discernable differences among the generations as they deal with several feet of the white stuff showing up on their doorsteps. Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

The Silents (b. 1925-1945) – Their answer to the snow is mano a mano. It’s important to get a path cleared. It’s personal. It’s about overpowering Mother Nature’s hold on us. They are out there with shovels and every other form of hand tool, making their mark on the white landscape. Like so many other tough conflicts over the decades, they will respond, put a shoulder to the wheel, and persevere until the job is done. We can only hope the cardiac specialists are available if needed.

Baby Boomers (b.1946-1964) – They may get all blissy about the beauty of the snowfall and the individualism of each snowflake. But when it comes to snow removal, the Boomers are all about the big power that comes from BIG toys. They bring the giant tractors – Kubotas and Deeres – to the party, and these bad boys are packing industrial snow blowers that easily put your front yard snow over the house and into your backyard. Comfortably sitting inside heated cabs with stereo and drink holders, the Boomer crowd takes snow manipulation from passion to obsession.

Gen-X (b.1965-1980) – Whatever. Snow is a total pain, best handled by someone else. The complaints are many, the action is slight. I have seen representatives of this group slog through the snow in expensive sneakers – and also arrive coatless in single digit weather. They have more trouble seeing the snowfall as anything but an inconvenience in their very busy lives, and wish that someone else would just make it stop. Now.

The Millennials (b.1981 to 2000) — Similarly inconvenienced by the snow as the Gen-Xers, this generation, the first to come of age in the new millennium, looks for ways to plan themselves out of future snow events. They are watching the weather reports on every available technology in order to get advanced notice of the next big storm. They want to be ready, to have a plan to minimize the disruption in their lives. I have seen them shoveling some, with iPods as accessories. They speak longingly about acquiring a walk-behind snow blower for use on the sidewalks in front of their new townhomes.

So that’s what is happening in my part of the world, on another cold and snowy night. Does the action in your neighborhood measure up? Same or different? Would love to hear your thoughts….

Monday, 08 February 2010 16:50

Hello World!

Hello World indeed!  Over the coming months and years I will be blogging here about life as a Professional Business Coach and Mentor — specializing in the areas of emotional intelligence, type preferences, how to build relationships you can count on — out there in the wonderful (and wicked) world of work.  I have some particular interests these days in generational differences — and in how the most recent brain research is, and should be, informing our work with others.  More about that will also be here.

I’m hoping that others will join me in this dialogue.  There will be tips and questions, surveys and wonderings.  Let’s share our thinking, okay?  Looking forward to a great conversation!

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